Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baby M

Baby M has made it into quite a few posts this past month. Take a look at the myspace page that she is currently piecing together.

Good By to My Love and I Promise You are both awesome songs and very representative of the J-Pop hit machine. Pay attention to the wordplay between English and Japanese.

Monday, March 30, 2009

新宿御苑- Shinjuku Gardens

The beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms is hard to put to words.

Vinyl Soul

I went to check out LA Latin Jazz/Soul hybrid band, Vinyl Soul, tonight in Okubo. Their trumpet player is a Japanese gal and they've done extensive touring over here. Check out their myspace. The best song I think is Sabor a mi.

Friday, March 27, 2009

咲いている桜;Blooming Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms in full bloom near the Budokan and Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo:
Cherry Blossoms beginning to bloom on a tree in Yoyogi Park:
I can only imagine how beautiful they are going to be next weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yugo Sato

Yugo Sato, one of the most talented musicians I've met in the Tokyo scene. Born and raised in Japan, yet he can play the blues better than any American I know. He's been a reoccurring character in this blog as well as my life here in Tokyo; an incredible musician and a true friend.

This track illustrates his musical brilliance and sense of hybrid creativity. The song is titled "Ronin Blues,"  ronin being the Japanese word for a masterless samurai vagabond. In it, he cries out with his masterfully bluesy voice while strumming the Shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. 

Prague: The Band Formerly Known As Sound Coordination

About two weeks ago, I went to see Sunset Drive play on the same lineup as an up and coming indy group, Sound Coordination, who are currently in the process of changing their name to Prague. It turns out that their manager also owns the company who represents Bo-Peep. He is a cool Japanese guy who has years of experience in the music industry. After the show, we all went out for a few drinks.

Tonight, I went to see Prague at a live house in Shibuya. The other bands were more or less weak, but Prague on the other hand has a totally awesome sound, hard to categorize but something like a Japanese version of Bloc Party. I really dig them and hope to be following them around more often.

After the show, I said hi to the guys in the band. The drummer actually remembered me from before and remembered that I also play drums. I guess being a gaijin comes in handy. Would he have even cared if I was just another member of the crowd?

Being a weeknight, there was no afterparty this time around. But next time who knows...
(This shot is from the first show)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shout Out to Bo-Peep

I just found out that Bo-Peep, the all girl Japanese punk band I've hung out and partied with here in Tokyo, received a few mentions in the New York Times from their recent appearances at the American music festival, South by Southwest.

Stoking Careers in Frenzy of South by Southwest

My college roommate, Sandeep, currently lives in Austin and told me he would check out their show for me. Apparently, the place was so overcrowded that he couldn't even get in!

Congratulations and a shout out to my home girls Ryoko and Mika! Glad to know you guys rocked the house down!

Fish Eye Lens

The other week, I wrote a bit about Fumi, my obnoxious female housemate from Osaka.

A few minutes ago, Fumi was arranging cookingware to prepare dinner with her friend. From the freezer, she pulled out a seran wrapped styrofoam tray of meat cutlets.

"Look," she said presenting the tray to me. "Tuna eyes!"

I'm not kidding you. These things were the size of baseballs. See for yourself...
"Japaneezu Staioru," [Japanese style] she said, inviting me to share a bit.

I've eaten some crazy things here, but I think boiled tuna eyes reign supreme.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vinyl Pornography

Like the guitar stores in Ochanomizu, the record shops in Shibuya are equally as salivating. This afternoon, I took a little field trip to the music block. A bib would have been helpful. I had to keep reminding myself that A) I have no money, and B) I have no record player (at least at the moment), or else I would have cleaned out the shops.

The best one I found was Recofan, a glutinous mess of incredible music covering a whole floor of an office building. The store was so overloaded with CD's and vinyl that it was difficult to browse through. Some sections were filled with boxes of cheaply priced albums organized solely by genre, as if the management didn't have time to properly catalogue their monstrous inventory. Hipply dressed DJ looking types could be seen everywhere flipping through hundreds of boxes searching for that one gem.

My litmus test for any record shop is letter "P" under Soul. If I'm impressed by the Prince and Parliament selections, then I know I've come to the right place. Sure enough, they had something like 4 copies each of Purple Rain, 1999, Parade, Around the World in a Day, and many many more, all reasonably priced.

This photo captures just one row of many in the store.
Another shop I saw sold DJ mixers and turntables. This sign was hanging outside.

It says, "Fuck PC. Real DJ's play vinyl."

Damn straight.

An American Werewolf...in a Japanese Gay Bar

A certain friend of mine who just so happens to be of the opposite persuasion gave me a call last night.

"Hey, I'm going with my friends to a bar in Shinjuku tonight and it's all you can drink for $10. It's a gay bar though so I understand if you don't want to go."

Being an aspiring specialist in the Tokyo underground, I was actually curious to check the place out and see what it was like. No, I wasn't that curious. I figured the worst thing that could possibly happen would be being spotted by somebody I knew. I'll tell you, it wouldn't be the first time somebody thought I was gay. Also, apologies for being crass, the last time I got dragged to a gay bar in America, I ended up getting with a really cute girl.

So with this in mind, I decided it couldn't hurt to tag along. The first place we went was pretty mellow, with cool bluish lighting and a hip atmosphere. If I had stumbled in alone, it would have probably taken me a few minutes to realize that the place was a gay hangout. The giveaway were a few monitors displaying suggestive videos of male models. Also, surprisingly, there weren't that many Japanese people there. 1000JPY ($10) for all you can drink is most definitely the best deal I've ever come across in this city. My typical bar tab might run up 3x that amount on a weekend night, so I was satisfied. There were also a few cute girls in our group so I didn't feel awkward at all.

Afterwards, we all went to eat shobu-shobu, Japanese hot pot of beef and pork, and then rented a karaoke booth for an hour. Hanging out with the guys and listening to their conversations, I definitely picked up a thing or two about gay culture. I was also hitting it off with the girls in the group.

When our hour was up, the guys were restless and wanted to go to another bar. Next up was another Shinjuku joint appropriately named, "Arty Farty." All the homosexual theater and art hipsters who I went to school with immediately come to mind. This place was loads different than the other bar and magnitudes more intense. I walked in and was immediately uncomfortable. The bar was packed to the brim with people drinking and dancing, completely full of wanton sexual energy. I asked my friend where the bathroom was. He pointed to the back of the room and told me not to get molested. I'm not sure if it was humor or seriousness. I was pretty comfortable in the other place, but Arty Farty definitely triggered my homophobic funny bone. I was avoiding eye contact with just about everyone in the building.

Overall, it was a cool experience for me to see a part of the city underworld that I wouldn't stumble into under normal circumstances, but don't expect to find me back next weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baby M Exclusive

More exclusive photos from yesterday:

Hard at Work: Baby M studying lyrics, producer Takanashi concentrating on his computer, and manager Toyama in the background reading.
Baby M laying down a track in the recording booth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Exclusive Live Update

I'm currently in the studio with Baby M. Like right this very second. I snapped these photos with my laptop camera.

Here is the control room.
Here is the booth with Baby M rockin' the mic.

Green Card

I received my Alien Registration Card last week. Most of us foreigners affectionately refer to the document as a "Gaijin Card." Now, I'm an official Card Carrying Foreigner.

Nobu, who bought me my cell phone, and has basically become my Japanese father away from home, wrote this to me in an email:

"Congrats !!!
Gringo Green got a Japanese Green card, didn't you ?
It was fast and you were lucky !"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter Feed

I just set up my blog to feed live to twitter. If you use twitter, please look me up!

Maid Cafe

My college friend Dan is visiting Tokyo this week. He wanted to do a little window shopping in Akihabara, the hi-techno geek shopping area of Tokyo where shops sell everything from the latest HD TV's to fetish anime. We caught a coffee at a maid cafe.

I Love NY

Excerpt of a drawing from my notebook:
I copied the idea from a 19 year old Japanese kid from Hakodate who had this graphic on his hat. I've wanted it ever since.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Way Too Much Nostalgia for One Night

I wanted to share with you all the official report that I submitted to the scholarship organization that sent me on my first sojourn in Japan during the summer of 2005.

Official Light Fellowship Report

I think my impressions have changed quite a bit since then, but even to this day, my summer spent in Hakodate still reigns supreme as one of the most incredible and eye-opening experiences of my life.

I still get quite nostalgic thinking about those days, but as of late, I've been so caught up in the hustle of Tokyo that there hasn't been much time to be a sap.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

清水翔太 - Shota Shimizu

I got lucky today.

As I mentioned before, my first gig in town has been teaching the owner of a boutique advertising/creative firm how to use digital media software. He also manages a few major J-Pop artists including well known Miliyah Kato and Baby M, who's show I saw two weeks ago.

I called the owner this afternoon to arrange our lesson.

"Hey, I have an extra ticket for Shota Shimizu tonight if you want," he told me over the phone. Shota is one of his artists.

I was on it in a flash. After our lesson, we drove over to Shibuya AX, one of top venues in town, entered through the back door, and received our backstage passes. VIP's were up in the balcony overlooking a floor packed completely to capacity, probably with 1000 people or so.

The reaction from the crowd when Shota first took the stage was a tangible shock of excitement. He dove right into their energy playing this song, a super hip mix of J-R&B and J-Rap. It's been stuck in my head since. The video doesn't do justice to the character of the moment. Even I was totally star-struck.

I was dreaming of making this song a hit in America.

Shota, only 20 years old, was an awesome performer. His musical influences, mainly American R&B and Motown, show through in his articulate and wide ranging voice. His style is simultaneously edgy and smooth, stepping in time to the rhythm with an awesome pair of high top kicks.

His style and appeal was apparent to everyone. All the girls in the room wanted him and all the guys wished they had his moves and apparel.

After the show I got to go back stage and give him a quick thank you and a nod. One of the advertising guy's friends works for Nike and gave Shota a free pair of kicks. Tough life.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Here are a few links. Tell me if you link these songs!

This one is the best video I found: Kikyori Renai
(Point Blank Love)
This one is there most famous song: Koi no Uta
(Love Song)
Here is one that captures their concert energy: Otona no Kusuri
(Adult Medicine)

Obviously, tiny YouTube video's don't do justice to how huge this band's sound is, but they do show you a little taste of their energy and style.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This month, Bo-Peep are on their way to South by Southwest, the hottest annual indy music festival in the States.

So Texas be warned, you are in for a facial scorching by three Japanese ladies.

Seriously though, if any of you guys are in Texas during the festival, make sure you catch Bo-Peep. The track featured on the SXSW website was their second to last song at Sunday night's concert. I can vividly imagine the American audiences who are going to be completely blown away by this track. It just simply rocks hard.

Here is the link: B-Level Motion


I just got in a conversation with my housemate, Fumi. She asked me what image Americans hold about Japanese women.

"Thin, young-looking, and quiet," I said. She got very excited and said that the quiet part wasn't true. I realized that she was thinking about herself. She is very loud and animated, much more so than most of my American female friends. Her hometown is Osaka, a city known for it's lively character and sense of humor. In fact, most Japanese comedians are originally from Osaka.

She fits in well with many of the stereotypes I've heard about the city. Her clothes are colorful and quirky, her personality is bubbly, and she is always kidding around. I also once heard that women from Osaka like things with leopard print. Not that I looked too hard, but whenever I go out back to hang up my laundry, I'm always greeted by a few hanging leopard print tights and bras.

"What image do you have of Americans?" I asked in return.

"Raiku Beefu." ["Likes Beef"]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Go!Go! 7188 + American Sexism

Last week, I mentioned Daniel, the music exec I know from the UK who brings Japanese bands on tour. It was through him that I met the girl group Bo-Peep who invited me to their show with Electric Eel Shock in Shimokitazawa last night.

Knowing he would be the guy to ask, I once picked his brain about who he thought was the best J-Rock band. "Go!Go! 7188," he responded, were currently the best band in the world.

Daniel invited three of Go!Go!'s managers to the Bo-Peep show and we were all making friendly conversation. One of the guys, Shinji, gave me a free ticket to the band's show tonight at Shibuya's O-East.

I didn't know a thing about the group minus that one English guy loved them and that they were very popular in Japan. The throngs of people in and around O-East confirmed my suspicions.

And here is why I am a sexist piece of shit. When the band was ready to take the stage, a hot young Japanese girl in a black Go!Go! 7188 t-shirt carrying a Go!Go! banner walked on stage. "This band even has their own cheer-girls," I was thinking.

Then a roadie handed the woman a bass and plugged her in. I felt like a real asshole. It didn't cross my mind that the best band in Japan could have a female front lineup. It's like that old riddle where the punch line is that the surgeon is a woman.

Go!Go! is a hard rock pop-punk trio with rocker-chicks Akko on bass and Yumi on guitar, with rocker-dude Turkey on drums. And for the billionth time since I came here 4 months ago, stereotypes I didn't even know I held about gender and music broke down before me.

Yumi- holy smokes could she wail!! She was a totally amazing guitarist with a unique and commanding style, crossing raw power from the Stooges, MC5, and AC/DC, with J-Rock/J-Pop harmony. The front-center of the stage had a small platform with bright pink trim. Yumi, with her matching pink t-shirt, would step up on the platform during her solos, elevating her status and commandeering the audience. I bet that even Toshi from Sunset Drive would have been mesmerized.

After the show, I stuck around and pretended to be somebody important. When the crowd thinned, my music exec friend introduced me to Turkey and Akko. I swallowed my butterflies and told both of them about the Tokyo Werewolf project.

So Akko, if you are reading this, sorry that I misjudged you at first. You guys rocked my world!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Electric Eel Shock and Bo Peep

I went to see two huge bands in the Tokyo underground scene, Electric Eel Shock and Bo Peep. Eel Shock is huge. I heard about them all the way back in the States. They've toured the world.

Since I had already met Bo Peep a few weeks ago, they were happy to introduce my friend and I to everyone. I got to party with both bands after the show. I'll tell you all about it once I get a chance to complete this article later in the week. For now though, I need to hit the sack...